It’s easy to jump right to asking “What is the best platform for hosting my church’s audio sermons/podcast?”, but the answer depends on your church's needs, which is one of the primary reasons that we have created this guide instead of just posting a single solution.
The first question to ask is:
If you don’t have Tithe.ly Sites, consider some of these questions:
Is budget a concern? Does the platform need to be free?
Does my church care if things look nice on the web?
Is it important to handle things like a major podcast company or podcaster?
Does our website have the ability to host the content in a stable manner?
Why Not Just Use iTunes Or Google Play?
One of the most common initial conclusions when a church plans to start posting audio sermons is that it makes sense to just use Apple or Google to host content with them since the end goal to have your church’s content on iTunes (more specifically, Apple’s Podcast App, but this article will refer to it as iTunes) and Google Play.
The reason that you will not see either of those options is because both of those resources are not podcast hosts. Both of them will simply read your RSS feed and allow people to access your content through their platform, but all of the heavy lifting of hosting the audio files and creating the podcast feed is actually handled by the platform that you choose.
For Churches On A Tight Budget
If your church is on a budget and you don’t care how your podcast looks online, then there is a service that caters perfectly to your needs called Sermon Cloud. It is a free service offered by Ekklesia360. To be perfectly clear, one of the purposes of the service it to draw churches in to start creating a paid Ekklesia websites, but you can easily use the service for free without ever purchasing a website. All they ask is that you vouch that you are an actual church.
Sermon Cloud offers the ability to have 52 sermons live at one time. 52 is a very strange number for a limit, but the idea is that they are offering to allow 1 year of sermons to be live at once. You can purchase the ability to have more live, or you can just let older sermons expire. Note that at the time that this article was written, Sermon Cloud stated that they will automatically delete older sermons once you pass the 52 sermon limit, but they may require you to manually delete old sermons in the future.
A major downside of Sermon Cloud is that it looks very ugly online. If you pay to have an Ekklesia site then it can look nice (which is how they attempt to lure you into purchasing a site), but if all that your church cares about is having a podcast feed to use in your app as well as on iTunes and Google Play, then this can be a good, free solution.
For Churches That Care About Their Web Presence
There are so many podcast providers available that it would be pointless to try to touch on all of them. And to make matters worse, the quality of providers changes from year to year due to how the companies update their tools to account for technology changes. We will cover two options here that we see many churches using, but note that there very well could be better options available.
SoundCloud set out to be the YouTube of podcasting, though in reality, for churches they are more like the Vimeo of podcasting since you need to have a paid account to be able to post sermons from every week.
The parallel can be drawn to YouTube because a neat feature of SoundCloud is that you can embed a very nice looking sermon player for any individual sermon into a social media post on your website. A side note that must be mentioned is that we see churches that try to embed all of their sermons into a single page on their website using SoundCloud embeds and it is a disaster. DO NOT DO THIS because it takes forever for your website to load and makes your sermons page useless.
Based on your churches needs, you can probably get by with SoundCloud’s $6/month plan which allows you to upload 6 hours of audio per month (the assumption here is that you are most likely uploading ~4 sermons per month that are less than an hour long). This is a reasonable price for one of the most popular podcasting platforms.
One major thing to keep in mind is that SoundCloud almost went out of business in 2017 and even sent an email out to all customers saying that all of their content might be deleted within a week! So, while things look stable now, it might be a good idea to quickly Google SoundCloud’s financial stability if you decide to go with them.
Yet Another Sermon Host is a dedicated platform for hosting your sermons. It's a monthly subscription service that allows you to upload as many sermons as you like, and it comes with all the features you would expect: group sermons by series, filtering, search, attachments, full support for podcast platforms, analytics, and the ability to embed a YouTube video for each sermon.
Most churches would only need their basic plan, which is $5 a month ($2 for church plants) for 100GB of bandwidth. But their website states that larger plans are coming soon.
Yet Another Sermon Host provides a modern interface that you can bring your own touches to: you can choose between 3 layouts, as well as bring your own brand icon and colors, and you can even bring your own subdomain.
Buzzsprout is an alternative to Soundcloud. The free tier is useless for a church because of how media expires within months and because of how little can be posted. If you are interested in using something other than SoundCloud because of SoundCloud’s rocky past and you are willing to pay a bit more ($12 to $16 per month based on your church’s needs), then it can be a good alternative that offers an embeddable player that can display an assortment of sermons.
Libsyn is an odd case where the potentially biggest player in the market has a bad website. If you look at major podcasters (for instance, Carey Nieuwhof) or big companies (for instance, IGN), you will find that they handle their podcasting, which is a huge part of their business, through Libsyn.
Libsyn is a podcasting host that will generate a valid RSS feed and is trusted by some of the biggest brands that podcast. You would expect that they would have a beautiful website and top-tier pricing, but you would be wrong on both accounts. Their website is one of the ugliest and their pricing is some of the lowest!
You can potentially host everything that your church needs for $15/month (which allows you to upload 250Mb of content each month) and know that you are working with the company that major brands trust.
It is important to note that Libsyn does not offer a good webpage for your podcast, so you will either need to link to the content from website posts (for instance, if your website allows you to create audio posts where you can link to the hosted audio) or link to their ugly webpage for your podcast. Also, note that there is a Libsyn plugin for Wordpress which allows you to pipe your Libsyn content directly into Wordpress in order to present the content in a more appealing fashion directly on your Wordpress site.
For Church’s That Can Use Their Website
If things are configured correctly, then by far the best option is most likely to use your church’s website to host content. There are a number of benefits to doing this:
People need to view your website to view your sermons online, which brings traffic to your church’s website.
When you link to sermons from social media, the links point back to your website, which is good for SEO.
There are services that encourage linking from your website to the podcast hosting service, but that is never as good of a solution as using your own website if your website is capable of hosting the podcast.
Some of the most popular types of websites are designed to be able to host a podcast, including Wordpress and Squarespace. For Squarespace, you simply post the sermons as a special type of blog. For Wordpress, there are a number different plugins that can create both a beautiful sermon layout on your website and also a valid RSS Feed for your app as well as iTunes and Google Play. Two plugins that we love are Series Engine and Sermon Manager.
It is important to consider your hosting provider when hosting your podcast on a Wordpress site. The problem is that some cheap hosts that offer shared hosting will claim to allow infinite storage, but as you use more and more bandwidth and storage, they will intentionally slow your site down to account for it. When researching using Wordpress for podcasting, this is something that you will most likely see people warn about.
In many cases, church’s don’t run into this issue, but if you are concerned about it, then there is a fantastic solution offered by WPEngine which will directly host your content on your personal AWS bucket so that you basically get free hosting (we say free because AWS hosting is so cheap compared to what most sites charge for hosting content). Note that WPEngine is slightly more expensive than the lowest tier Wordpress hosting, but it will still be around the same cost as using a podcast provider like SoundCloud and you get the added benefit of having your content on your own website.
If you are willing to work for 5 to 10 minutes to link WPEngine to AWS, then we believe it is the very best way you can possible podcast since you have the speed, low cost and stability of AWS with the flexibility of Wordpress. You will have to copy and paste some code into AWS that you probably won’t understand, but WPEngine has a great guide and phone support, and after investing that small amount of time, you are good to go. Here is a guide if you are interested in taking the plunge.
In the end, there are a lot of factors to consider when diving into creating a podcast for your church’s audio sermons. Of the options listed above, there is no wrong choice since your choice should be based on your church’s needs and abilities. Keep in mind that there are other options available and that if your sole desire is to get your content into you church app, the Church Tithe.ly App Dashboard is another great solution for hosting content and customizing it within your app.
If you have any questions feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!